Once done once, we can always do it again. The difficulty is the first step.
Perseverance is exhausting, but it is fuel to the engine we call motivation. We’re always taught to get back on the horse, that it’s about how hard you can get it and continue moving forward. To tirelessly march forward, dreams in hand, against the torrent of life. That is exactly the position Park "Architect" Min-ho finds himself in as the Overwatch League nears its fourth season.
From his debut, he was billed to become a mainstay, a name that would persist within Overwatch for ages to come. Rising in notoriety, he began to compare to some of the best players in the world. Following that, he entered the Overwatch League, the grandest stage of them all, took off his training weights, and showcased a deeper power level that we hadn’t seen from him before.
And then nothing.
It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly.
- Isaac Asimov
He was nearly there. Just for a moment, a relieving, welcoming light—and then the painful howl of metal on metal and the slam of a gateway just shy of his face. The silence screamed as he thought on what just happened. In one moment he quietly peered through the pristine, gilded gateway—where it led, he wasn’t quite sure—but before he could discern the shadows that lay on the other side, it quickly slammed shut. Sat firm on the cold, lonely cobblestone, Architect heads into the new year down, but is he out? Can he, once again, begin to pry open the doors of his dreams or are they bolted shut for good?
First, he knocked.
He recalled how first he found himself at the gate.
His first break was during OGN’s Overwatch APEX alongside CONBOX Spirit, a team history fondly remembers as the starting point to the stars of modern Overwatch. Those like Son “OGE" Min-seok, Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, and Lee "Twilight" Joo-seok, some of which Architect called teammates during his tenure. It’s here where his fresh eyes and promising skills begin to manifest during the crescendo of the dive metagame. However, CONBOX suffered the plight of the middle-of-the-road. They were competent, that was obvious, but they simply couldn’t contest. In spite of it all, he was the north star of CONBOX Spirit, one of the few who were positioned well to have a long and fulfilling career in such a fledgeling game. While Architect and CONBOX ended the APEX era consistent to the bitter end, his next venture, while shortlived would be an omen of sorts.
X6-Gaming was where next he’d call home. And albeit shortlived, his stead was promising. He and the team performed extremely well in the third-party events leading up to the genesis of Overwatch Contenders, but duty called, and Architect returned back to his post. Funnily enough, they would go on to win Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 1.
Then, he began to pull.
Through his crowbar-like efforts, the Overwatch League came calling.
It was the middling San Francisco Shock of 2018. While it sounds heretical to think of the Shock as less-than, that’s exactly how they started. This was before landing the greatest coach in Overwatch to date and before the duo they banked on truly took flight. Architect was apart of a trio that would seed the pride and joy of California. He alongside support phenom Grant "moth" Espe and flex tank legend Choi "ChoiHyoBin" Hyo-bin were called as reinforcements during the spring of the Overwatch League’s inaugural season. While they landed well enough, things were a bit too far gone to make any meaningful change so quickly, and the team finished ninth out of the twelve initial franchises. However, one thing was paramount at this point; Architect was much more than he initially let on.
During his APEX tenure, he was a Genji prodigy caught up on a team that just couldn’t find their way. Now, in the Overwatch League, he was showcasing a much deeper hero pool. Not only was he performing on other projectile heroes, but he was also stunning crowds and opponents alike with hitscan DPS picks like Widowmaker and McCree. And then, in the months to come, the Shock caught fire. They, at the risk of terrible puns, shocked the world.
Like bottled lightning, the 2019 Shock swiftly made the metamorphosis into a challenger, one that could be referred to when it came time to playoffs. Scepticism was high, but stage after stage, the Shock were proving to be vastly improved—title worthy in all respects by the end of the regular season. In part, thanks to Architect and his skills. Rivalling the RunAway era of the Vancouver Titans, the two giants of the league traded blows throughout the season, culminating in a final, fated duel to settle the score.
It was here where his gateway gave way.
Budging, just for a moment, Architect glimpsed the beyond with one of the most iconic moments in Overwatch League’s relatively short history. His Bastion antics were not only genius but cemented the Shock’s stature over their former rivals. Out of the two prevailing compositions in the playoffs, they could play them both thanks to Architect’s wildly diverse hero ocean. He laid a portion of the bricks on their golden path, one that led straight to the 2019 Overwatch League championship. Architect was, quite literally, on top of the world, but fate has some tricky ways of manifesting itself.
While the year began with good intentions, 2020 sold Architect short. Starting strong in San Francisco, shockingly enough, the same team that brought him to the Overwatch League, wasn’t in need of his services by May of that year. He was a contributing factor to San Francisco’s first title reign, he was paramount in their strategy— but things change. Life races forwards, and we consistently motivate ourselves to try and keep pace.
And now, he waits.
His new home, the Hangzhou Spark, was middling at best at this point. Dazed and confused, this once-formidable team was now, being terrified of action and then blindly rushing headlong into matches. What was supposed to be a test for one of Overwatch’s most promising talents looked like a death sentence. Sure, the team found a spot in the sun during the summer, but it didn’t change their record, nor did it change their playoff performance. Relegated to the play-in qualifiers, the Spark was quickly dispatched without taking a map off the Seoul Dynasty. Their summer rally bandaged their record, but they couldn’t bottle the momentum. Architect and the Hangzhou Spark finished their season tenth overall with a 12-11 match record and a -4 map differential.
Nearly a year separated the two polarising finishes. From the glory of the 2019 championship and happy tears, to unfulfilled expectations in 2020 and sad streams.
2021 might have blown out its birthday candles, but Architect still sits at an impasse.
Haunted by the promise of his past, can he surpass and lead his team to their own renaissance?
Perseverance is exhausting, but in its tireless march, lessons are learned. After facing the greatest of obstacles, we gain the experience to never let them happen again. The courage to say, “we’ve faced the worst, what more can we take?” That’s the lesson.
Architect now stands at the gateway, his gateway.
There are many like it, but this one was his. Was the prize that sits just past the horizon the lessons of his past? The hunger alongside CONBOX, of preparation alongside X6-Gaming, and the eventual rise to the podium with the San Francisco Shock? Was the blinding light that peaked out at him another championship reign in his newfound home of Hangzhou, China?
Whatever it was it was, it sat opposite the imposing gateway that stared menacingly as if to challenge the once champion. This was his door to open, his mystery to solve.
Can Architect walk the narrow bridge of greatness and peer beyond the gargantuan gateway once again? Can he return to being the flexible force that he was in 2019? Can he become the spark of change and bring success back to Hangzhou? Once done once, we can always do it again. The difficulty, throughout many aspects of life, is the first step. In that way, Architect tentatively walks that perilously familiar path as the Overwatch League barrels into the 2021 season.
Sophie had it right. They do say that the best blaze burns brightest when circumstances are at their worst. Boldly, Architect walks up from the winter of his career into a fresh start, a new year, a new season.
So, what say you, Architect? Will 2021 be the key?
Images via Blizzard Entertainment